Surfing, Skateboarding, Music, Photography, Travel, Culture and general antics of the youth on the run.

Conversation With: Kai Borg The Interview

01.24.19 – TAGS: , ,
Portraits: Tom Carey

Kai Garcia embodies respect. A respect well earned and honored.

But much has changed for Mr. Garcia in recent years as different things took on new meanings and what used to be important in life just wasn’t anymore. Kai has been going through some significant life changes, some documented, some not, so we jumped at the chance to catch up with the man himself and to hear first hand what he’s up to and where he’s headed. What Youth’s, Tom Carey, who happens to be a close personal friend, sat down with Kai while he was in So Cal on some business and simply hit record. Hope you enjoy it. – WY

How did you break onto the surfing scene?
I grew up in Hawaii. I grew up with everyone. I come from the 80’s generation.

Who are the guys you came up with and looked up to? In the 80’s Kauai was pretty far off
the map, right?
Yeah, I basically grew up with a lot of local guys that nobody had heard of. A couple guys that people
would know is Byron Wong, Titus and Ali Kai Kinimaka, and Terry Chung. There’s a
whole bunch of them but those are the ones that made a name for themselves.

What were the things they taught you growing up?
It was really old school back then. It was pretty hardcore. Black and white with everything.

Dog eat dog, respect your elders?
It was respect your elders but you know, it’s a ‘you’re in or you’re’ out kind of deal. You have to
earn your way. Nothing is given and everything is earned. It was hard knocks. It wasn’t easy
that’s for sure.

Was there an annual pilgrimage to the North Shore every year? Did you have to prove yourself there
before anything else?
No, there was Titus, Max and Ali Kai. They were known on Oahu back then. Ali Kai brought me
and my brother over in ’86 for our first trip to the North Shore. We stayed at Max Medeiros’ house
right next to where Foodland is now. We basically met everybody. All our idols, our heroes and everyone
at the mags. All the Hawaiians. All the Aussies. It was an eye opener. I wanted to come back as soon as I left! I
already had an intro and had met all the hardcore guys already and had one foot in the door but
didn’t even realize it.

Was that Kauai crew there to help pave the way?
It was more like this is Hawaii. This is our place and you’ve got to hold it down. You’re in or
you’re out.

The North Shore has changed so much since the Volcom house days. It obviously
used to be much wilder in those days. Do you still see guys that go over there and try and be
a tough guy, or whatever? What do you say to kids like that? There’s got to be a pecking order no matter what. There has to be respect. When people come to surf Pipeline, they think they’re tough. I don’t see that. There’s no tough kids that want to come
here and surf Pipeline. If you’re tough, you’re a full-time fighter. There’s no time to do that and
still go surf. If you are claiming to be tough, you are a wannabe. A poser. Who wants to be
tough? There’s always someone tougher than you. It’s a big facade and it never ends well.

Do you like the scene on the North Shore more now or 20-years ago? I think everyone is nicer now probably because of social media.

Everyone gets along. I think it’s fine. It wasn’t exactly fun back in the day when you had to do what you had to do. Times change
and you have to evolve with it. I’m not living in the past. Before is before. Now is now.

Switching gears a bit, at what point did you pick up jiu-jitsu?
I picked it up because there was a lot of Brazilians coming to Hawaii at the time and an influx of
them in the surf. I got introduced to it and I loved it from the beginning. It was go surf and then
go train. I loved it and never stopped.

Tell me about your time in Brazil.
In jiu-jitsu everything was in Brazil back then and I wanted to go to the motherland of training. I started
training there and Royler Gracie had me enter the state tournament. I won that and he wanted me
to enter the Brasileiro against all of Brasil. I broke my foot in the final but that ignited it. I came
back the next year and did a couple more tournaments. Worlds came along and I won that. That
was 97 and 98. It was just a blur. Feels like so long ago. I don’t even look back on it anymore to be
honest.

What do you think has given you more. Surfing or Jiu Jitsu?
Surfing has given me everything I have in my life. It has given me a job. It has given me a life. A
passion. Healing. Free of stress. It’s a really pure moment to be out there in the water. Grappling
was just an add on to it all. It has been a getaway and escape for me from everything that was I
dealing with internally. It helped me not get it out on the streets or with the wrong people or anything like
that. It was an outlet for me.

What are some of the things you might mention an up-and-coming surfer from California that is super-green and knows nothing about jiu jitsu and wants to learn?
You got to be consistent. No matter what you do, you have to practice. You have to drill. You
can’t just bang your head and roll, roll, roll. You drill to instill.

When did it become competitive for you and when did you feel like you had a future in it?
I never knew I had a future in anything. Everything was day-to-day all the way till I was 29 or
30. There was no plan for the future. Everything was blooming and happening but I had never
been a real ambitious guy, to be honest.

What is your biggest achievement in your eyes?
To be able to raise my kids and love my wife. Giving them the love and guidance that I never
had. What you do in life, that’s not your legacy. Your legacy is your kids. Whatever you do in
life, if you’re a top athlete in the world, that’s your God-given talent. That doesn’t mean anything.
You were born with it. What matters is when the rubber hits the road and how you carry yourself
and how you treat people. It’s about how you treat your family.

I’ve had the chance to hang out with your son, Kaikoa, he’s such a humble and nice kid. What are the things you try and instill in him?
I try to instill humility and to appreciate what you have. There’s no handouts in life. Everything
you get you have to earn and keep moving forward. Learn from your mistakes because they are
all life-lessons. It’s not what you did, it’s what your doing today. As long as you keep moving
forward and progressing, even if its baby steps, you’re still moving forward. Don’t have any
regrets in life. All of your regrets are stepping stones to where you are today if you are lucky
enough to learn from them.

Do you have any regrets?
I have zero.

Do you think your family is proud of your achievements?
I have no idea to be honest. They are just happy that I’m married and healthy. That I have a house
and am paying my bills. Being a good a member of society. That’s all you can really hope for in
your kids.

What’s your role now with RVCA? What have they allowed you to do in regards to
growing as a person? How happy are you to be with a company that has the same passions
as you?
It’s a blessing. To go to RVCA and see Pat Tenore’s vision and the direction he’s going in is a
blessing. I don’t have to be apart of surfing or go babysit anyone anymore. Being apart of RVCA
Sport and having launched that brand and being an advocate for them on the North Shore and
how they have their hands on the pulse, I love it. I have access to all the top grapplers, boxers
and fighters in the world. Since the day Pat started RVCA, its been incredible.

Did you ever envision surfing and jiu jitsu becoming so intertwined?
No, but in retrospect, I should have because when I was in Rio everybody surfed. I didn’t connect
the dots at the time. Even if they aren’t affiliated with RVCA, they come to the North Shore to
surf. We get to train and pass knowledge. It’s incredible. We get to train and meet so many high-
caliber people from every aspect.

What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to know about the real Kai
Garcia?
That I’m a God fearing man and that I’m a good father, husband, and uncle. Everything else doesn’t
matter. You don’t have to be blood to be family. I try and treat everyone as kind and evenly as I
can nowadays. I still look how I look but I can’t help that. God made me look like this. I can’t
help my old reputation, it is what it is but what I can do is control myself and how I treat
people.

Last question. Who gave you the nickname “Kaiborg” ?
I have no idea.

 

 

 

what youth music

Conversation with: Josh Landau On his new band, Kill a Punk for Rock & Roll 

Josh Landau is an unstoppable force. The frontman and guitarist of The Shrine debuted his new band, Kill a Punk for Rock & Roll, just a couple weeks ago, and the momentum he’s pulling will make your head spin. Alongside Landau in his band of misfits is Jordan Jones on guitar, Don “Nuge” Nguyen on…

what youth recommends the britanys

Conversation With: The Britanys Brooklyn’s lo-fi garage band that’ll remind you of the Strokes

In case you were wondering why Brooklyn band The Britanys have a missing T in their name, blame frontman Lucas Long. “I’m a really bad speller,” he told me before their show at the Satellite in Los Angeles last month. Together with Steele Kratt on drums, Jake Williams on guitar, and Lucas Carpenter on bass,…

Conversation with Twin Peaks.

Conversation With: Twin Peaks Gas station phone conversations

Chicago does a lot of cool shit for rock n roll and lately running wild about the town is a band of garage rockers whose name you probably have been seeing pop up a lot, Twin Peaks. If you’re wondering how and where these guys came from, keep your ears peeled because, unless you despise the…

what youth music

Conversation With: Darren Rademaker The leadsinger and founder of The Tyde on his new album and his life lived playing music

I’ve known Darren Rademaker, lead singer and founder of The Tyde and seminal indie bands Further and the Summer Hits, for the better part of a decade. I’ve seen him play more than a hundred times, at least, and it really never gets old for me. He just released his fourth album with The Tyde,…

Conversation With: Alexander Schmidt On his new zine “Side Streets”, street skating and street photography

I’ve been a fan of WKND since I found out about them. Aesthetically, they’re great. But what’s also great is the personalities that exist in their crew. I discovered one of their talents, Alexander Schmidt when they announced the release party for his new zine, Side Streets. I couldn’t make it, but I loved what…

Conversation With: Adult Books The same guys that played our Issue 14 release party

“Our first band, I was fifteen, you were eighteen,” says Daniel Quintanilla, bassist and vocalist of Adult Books. He’s referring to Nick Winfrey, the band’s guitarist and vocalist and main poodle aficionado, who, I’m pretty sure, taught Quintanilla how to drive. Together with drummer M.M. Sina, who lived a block away from Winfrey in Orange…

Conversation With: Susan Plus the premiere of their new video, “Somebody New”

Susan is a band, and we’ve been in love with them ever since they let us use their song “Windows Down” in Episode 1 of 4 Cities with Ozzie Wright (by the way, watch that). Comprised of Jessica Owen on guitar, Beth B on bass and Katie Fern on drums, Susan mixes elements of pop…

conversation with yung

Conversation With: Yung Because we’re obsessed with this band

We told you to listen to Yung a couple months ago, and not only are we taking our own advice, but we’re still basically obsessed with them. Their debut album, A Youthful Dream, has been dominating our eardrums since we first hit that play button. So read our interview with the band below, and keep…

Conversation With: Audacity Plus the World Premiere of their new video for “Not Like You”

Orange County’s staple garage-punk band Audacity is pounding on your door with another ruckus album, and you’re bound to fall in pop-punk-love with it. If you haven’t had the privilege of growing up with Audacity records through your punk rock teen years, or had the chance to get high off their endless energy at one…

kera and the lesbians hood on

Conversation With: Kera and the Lesbians Elvis, that name and their new record

Kera Armendariz, the frontman and lead singer of Kera and the Lesbians, is, and ignore my cheesy cliché, in it to win it. “I see myself as a longevity artist,” she says with calm confidence. She’s been writing and playing music since she was young, when she discovered what would become a lifelong love for…

what youth conversation with robbie simon

Conversation With: Robbie Simon “If you’re happy where you are, every step along the way was right.”

Robbie Simon, the Los Angeles-based artist, is modest when speaking about his talent. “If you would’ve told me even three years ago that I would be having a show of paintings, I wouldn’t have believed you.” He’s most recognizable as the designer for Allah-las posters and flyers and merchandise, essentially their contributing art director. But…

what youth issue 13 william strobeck

Conversation With: William Strobeck Filmmaker behind Supreme’s Cherry, Joy Ride and more

William Strobeck is a filmmaker. And he’s the kind we need. A creative mind so rooted in the world he documents that he cannot help but document it exactly the way it is. With an attention and attraction toward the colorful world it exists in. Unfortunately, this is a rare thing. He wants you to…

Sign up for letters from What Youth